Aphelion Issue 241, Volume 23
July 2019
 
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The Greenhouse

by Thomas Goulding

"And now for the highlight of the tour," Joseph Brooke beamed, leading his guest through the humid mist.

"What might that be?" she sighed, feigning interest. She took another sip of wine and let her eyes wander skyward to the domed ceiling. It was hard to believe that only an hour ago this man had been whispering sweet nothings to her in a dim--lit bar, now he was pulling her by the hand through an illuminated labyrinth of exotic plant life.

"You know when you asked me to come back and see your most prized possession, I didn't think you meant--"

Brooke reeled round, his eyes gleaming with excitement,

"Trust me. You won't regret this."

They descended deeper into the artificial abyss, Brooke always ahead; his slick hair now unkempt where protruding branches had attempted to clasp and strike him. Occasionally he would glance around to see if she was keeping up, sweat dripping down his forehead and soaking the collar of his shirt. His sudden eccentricity alarmed but intrigued her: the frenzied expression, the quickened pace, the passion for whatever lay ahead. Maybe this would be worth her while after all. Suddenly he came to a halt and the grip on her wrist tightened. Pushing back the blonde, tangled strands that had fallen across her eyes, his finger traced a path down to her lips where it gestured for her to be silent,

"This is it" he whispered, slowly parting the green veil of foliage.

She stepped forward, breathless with anticipation. Instantly her heart sank.

"It's just another plant."

Brooke shoved past her, irritated his guest had not appreciated the spectacle before them.

"Just a plant? Just a plant?" He shook his head in disbelief, "My dear, this is Beatrice. More specifically, she is a unique example of a Nepenthes rajah".

She studied the heaving, bulbous organism as one might inspect a mouse caught in a trap.

"It's utterly repulsive" she managed, disguising a grimace.

Suddenly the plant veered, a piercing croak shrieked through the air. Brooke rushed forward and gently caressed the agitated purple body, soothing it with the same seductive voice he had once used on his petrified guest.

"You hurt her feelings" he explained impatiently once the plant had settled to a low, rhythmic breathing.

"I -- I had no idea plants were emotionally sensitive", she apologized, recollecting herself.

"It's also miraculous that you've yet to register that this particular Nepenthes rajah is substantially larger than the average pitcher plant", Brooke lectured sarcastically. "Almost ten time larger in fact."

After a moment of murmured accusations, Brooke regained his posture and moved forward to take both her hands, placing the forgotten wine glass at her feet. She stared back, entranced.

"Joseph, I just thought you brought me here to do something more, you know…" she trailed off, moving closer to him.

Brooke stepped back again, clearing his throat,

"My dear, I believe an apology may be required. I'd be obliged if you could make amends with Beatrice before we conclude the tour. Just walk over there and stroke her."

Reluctantly, she turned to face the plant. It acknowledged her presence with a strangled gasp, salivating through orange lips.

"Joseph I'm not sure, are you certain it-- she's entirely safe?"

"Safe? My God girl what do you take me for, a Bond villain?" Brooke replied curtly.

She continued forward, only slightly reassured. The air was thick with a putrid odor that reminded her of musk, wafting upwards from the pulsating mouth, congealing in the corners of the pink flesh beneath.

Swallowing her fear she slowly reached out to touch the bulging shape, shuddering as her fingers realized a distinct change in temperature. The plant purred softly, enjoying the attention. She persisted in brushing her hand along the ridges of the body.

"What did you say made her unique again?" she asked distractedly, now feeling the leaves that sprouted along the plant's base with new confidence.

"Apart from the size? I didn't," Brooke admitted, pleased by her curiosity, "Why don't you peer in and find out for yourself?"

With subdued fascination she slowly leaned over the cavernous entrance, hypnotized by the secretion that flowed across her nail varnish.

####

"And this", declared Joseph Brooke, "Is my most prized possession."

The woman stepped giggling through the foliage, but turned around in disappointment.

"It's just a plant!"

"Not just a plant," Brooke snorted, "My dear, this is Beatrice. To be specific, she is a unique example of a Nepenthes rajah."

THE END


© 2010 Thomas Goulding

Bio: Thomas Goulding is an eighteen-year-old British student, currently undertaking an undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Surrey. He has had two feature articles published in The Shropshire Magazine and contributes film, music and literature reviews consistently to the student paper.

E-mail: Thomas Goulding

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